It’s that time of year when parents begin to panic about how they’re going to keep their teens out of trouble during the summer months. Gone may be the days when they
were safely supervised at camp. Now, they want to make money and chill with
their friends on warm summer evenings. The question is: if they haven’t found a
job yet, are they going to now? And how? They may have walked the malls,
handing out resumes to any store manager that will take one. They may have send
emails to all of your business contacts. They may even have gone on several
interviews but not been called back.
Teens looking for a first time, entry level position will often look to fast food
establishments or retail outlets for a job. But if your son or daughter thinks
that getting a job at McDonalds, for example, is going to be easy, he or she
might want to think again. I interviewed Steve Forman, owner/operator of five McDonald
locations about his experience at interviewing teens for entry level jobs.
Eighty five percent of Steve’s employees are between the age of 15 and 19. He interviews
about 1000 applicants each year and hires about 100. So, with the odds of being
hired at one out of ten, one really needs to stand out and make a good
impression. If you think that it’s “only McDonalds” and that it doesn’t take
much to being hired there, you may be unpleasantly surprised. After 32 years of
working with McDonalds (he began as a crew person at aged 15, met his wife,
Bonnie, when he was a twenty year old swing manager and she was a crew
trainer), he’s not only a McDonalds expert, but also an expert at what works
and what doesn’t when it comes to making a good impression at a job interview.
He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly and has a wealth of information to share. So, I
thought I’d pass this onto you in the hopes that you can pass it on to your
teen if he or she is motivated to land a job that will give him or her some
pocket money for those extra evenings of entertainment or even towards savings
for college or university.
Before the Interview:
Steve recommends that, if you haven’t already done so,
- put together a solid resume. Nothing fancy or too long. A single page, neatly laid
out is best.
- Steve recommends that you bring the resume to the interview even if you’ve previously
dropped one off and even if you have been asked to fill out an application.
- He recommends that you role play the interview process with your parent or another
adult. Practise responding to questions such as:
* why do you want to work for us?
TIP: Make your interviewer feel that this job is important to you and not just because it
is close to home or because your friend works there.
* what do think you could bring to this job? Why should we hire you?
TIP: know a little about the company that you applying to work for. Know what is important
to them. If friendly customer service is high on their priority list, stress
that your friendly, people oriented personality is well matched for the
* how are your marks at school? “This is very important to me,” Steve says.
* Where else have you worked? What did you enjoy about that job?
TIP: Steve says, “I look for people who are very positive. I want to hear that you love
everything. If you start getting into all the things you hated, this does not
send a good message.”
* what do your parents think about you being here today?
TIP: If your parents would prefer that you focus on school work instead of working
outside of school, then employers may be concerned that they will not encourage
your being there. Make sure to talk your parents before applying for work so
that you can make sure that you have their support.
* If you had a whole bunch of tasks to complete at school, how would you manage to get
TIP: Interviewers may present you with a few situational questions to establish how
you work through tricky situations.
TIP: Steve recommends that you come prepared with 3 or 4 stories that can be applied to
different questions. Stories that speak of a time when you showed great
responsibility or quick thinking, for example.
Walking through the door:
Steve says that “the first 30 seconds won’t get you the job, but they can sure help you
- First impressions are critical
- Pay careful attention to the way you are dressed. Steve recommends no jeans, that
guys are clean shaven, that they wear a dress shirt (no tie needed) and dress pants
and that girls are neat and clean. He also recommends that other than earrings
(okay for both guys and girls), that all other jewellery for other body
piercings be removed and that in general, jewellery is kept to a minimum.
At the interview:
- Steve says that body language is very important. He recommends that you sit up
straight. Slouching sends the message that this job is not very important to
you. It says “I guess I’ll just take this job until I find something better.”
- Steve recommends that “when the employer walks over to you, hop out of your seat.
Look like you can’t wait to get started.
Thrust out your hand, smile, maintain eye contact and have a firm
handshake. If your hand is sweaty, don’t sweat it.” He’d prefer to know that
you are nervous because it says to him that you care and that you want to make
a good impression.
- during the interview, talk passionately about the product or service. “I’ve had people
say that they don’t eat McDonalds.” That isn’t a good sign if you’re being
interviewed for a job there.
- have references and telephone numbers with you and make sure that the references
know to expect a call.
- before leaving, if you haven’t already been given the interviewers business card with
contact information, ask for it.
- Steve suggests that you end the interview with something like “I would love to work
here. I promise to do a great job.” This goes a long way, he says.
- After the interview, follow up with an email or thank you card, thanking the interviewer
for his or her time.
So, whether you’re applying for an entry level, minimum wage position at a fast food
establishment or a higher up position after graduating from university, clip
and save these tips. If you prepare, practise, show enthusiasm and commitment,
you’ll have a much better chance of making a good impression and beating your
competition to getting the job you’re hoping for.
Sara Dimerman is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is the author of two parenting books, 'Am I A Normal Parent?' and 'Character Is the Key' and is one of North America’s leading parenting experts. Listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching “helpmesara” on iTunes. Find out more at www.helpmesara.com